Wednesday, June 24, 2009

North Branch Beatdown


After reveling in the trout of the Savage, This River is Wild made the 20 minute drive to Barnum, West Virginia to gain access to the North Branch of the Potomac River. After the technical demands of the Savage it was fun for a day to hammer on some dumb hatchery fatties.
We began the afternoon by wading downstream from the access point and catching two browns on two casts. They were a far cry from the healthy fins and markings on the Savage browns, but fun nonetheless.

Soon we had 'bows and some browns hammering anything we threw at them. Soft hackle hare's ears suspended under Letort Hoppers were pulling them out. We took fish on the dry, on the swing, on a dead drift, on a not-so-dead drift, on a drowned dry fly....they were definitely not picky. We had fun with some seriously complex rises and slow, deliberate takes on our dries. Nothing is more exciting than when a fish has your dry nose-to-nose for a few seconds before refusing or committing.

Slayer

That evening we hiked upriver of the access point to check out the water we would fish the next day. Before we could get a good look at it a local who had been fishing upriver came out of the woods and told us to turn around because he saw a 'huge ass bear, I mean a big fucking bear!" wading near shore a mere 100 yards upriver from us. Thanking him for preventing us from walking into the jaws of death, we fished a bit and returned to camp to gear up for the next morning.

Gearing up = eating lots of hot dogs

Strategizing that night we realized that the Maryland side of the river, upstream from the Barnum access must be rarely fished compared to the WV side because of the ridiculously treacherous wading. We decided to work that side hard the next day.

Slowly working our way upstream, using hands, elbows, knees and felt souls to navigate the thigh-deep rushing water and boulders we worked the pocket water. We had some success on dries and the old reliable soft hackle. About a half mile upstream we hit the first long, deep run. After bombing a cast across the river and mending upstream, Mark set the hook on the first of 10 or so rainbows of 17 inches or more that we would bring to hand from this point onward. Mark pulled another 18 incher out of this hole before hooking and landing a monster approaching 24".

Fat 'bow


A Real Pig



Adam and mark continued to haul them in as I tied on a streamer and worked the pools for the next two hours. After 5 hits I finally landed a 17 inch 'bow, cut off the streamer and tied on a hopper-dropper rig. Adam hooked a slam pig rainbow that would give Mark's a run for the title of the fish of the trip before it ran between his feet during a landing attempt and broke itself off by snagging the dropper on Adam's boots. He slumped into the current, silently dejected.
video
Almost all of the fish we caught were hatchery rainbows. Most of them had tiny nubs for pectoral fins resembling vestigial limbs. Some of them were totally missing the tail fin and just had a flap of flesh. One that we caught was almost completely rectangular in shape.

Rectangle Trout
In short, the closer we got to the dam the bigger and uglier the fish became. Some of the few bright spots were the few wild bows and browns pulled from the pocket water of the rapids and the healthy 24"ers that Mark and Adam hooked, with their massive fins.

After 6 hours of trudging through the current we could finally see the dam in the distance. Beneath the 'no trespassing' sign there was a long, deep and still pool. We took turns casting upstream and each of us pulled out a few fish.

At this point we were spent. Starting out the day at 7am, it was now approaching 5pm and we had foolishly brought no food and very little to drink. We left the river and hiked back to the truck, totally content in the experience we had on the North Branch and excited to head to the Youghioheny River the next morning.

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